Climate change is contributing to an extended allergy season

Woman suffers from sniffles
Andrea Piacquadio | 2022

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may be dealing with sneezing, sniffles and itchy eyes further into the fall — and that’s in part due to climate change.

portrait of a woman
Teddie Potter
Courtesy of University of Minnesota

Inhaling pollen triggers a cascade of symptoms as your immune system reacts to the offensive agent; mold causes a similar reaction, according to Teddie Potter, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s nursing school and director of the Center for Planetary Health and Environmental Justice.

The allergy season has been extended by 21 days in Minnesota, “which doesn't sound a lot if you're not somebody with seasonal allergies. But if you have seasonal allergies, you can be miserable during this time,” Potter told MPR News.

Warmer temperatures and increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the environment make plants and trees happy, Potter says. That means more photosynthesis and thus more pollen on both the front and back ends of the season.

Grass pollen is the springtime problem. In the fall, ragweed plagues Minnesotans. And the changing climate means people who’ve never dealt with seasonal allergies may face them for the first time, according to Potter.

“If people have gotten used to certain allergies, and then they relocate, they can become allergic to new things that they haven't been exposed to in the past.”

Potter recommends downloading an app to check on the day’s pollen count to determine how much time to spend outside, should you be sensitive. Be aware, too, of the weather, as windy days mean more ick in the air.

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